Old Scores and New Readings eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about Old Scores and New Readings.
sunlight and freshness; full, too, of a finer mystery than ever Weber dreamed of—­the mystery with which the most delicate German imagination invested the broad rivers that flowed through the black forests from some far-away land of unchangeable stillness and beauty, some “land of eternal dawn,” as Wagner calls it.  No more Mozartean music is in existence, save Mozart’s own, than that first act of “Lohengrin,” where Wagner, by dint of being Weberish, came nearer to Mozart than ever Weber came; for Weber never wrote anything which, regarded as absolute music, apart from its emotional significance, or the picture it suggests to the inner eye, is so purely beautiful as, for instance, the bit of chorus sung after Lohengrin concludes his little arrangement with Elsa.  Both the first and the second acts are full of such melodies, any two of which would prove Wagner to be the greatest melody-writer of the century; and those critics who say that Verdi is greater because his melodies are more like Mozart’s in form, would have said, had they lived last century, that Salieri was greater than Mozart because Salieri’s melodies were more like Hasse’s in form.  Perhaps the last act might be quite as exquisite on the stage, for it is even more exquisite in the score; but that we shall not know until our operatic singers abandon their vanity and their melodrama, and by reading an occasional book, and sometimes going out into the world, learn how much they themselves would gain if they always worked with artistic sincerity.


All art forms are conventions, and all conventions appear ridiculous when they are superseded by new ones.  The old Italian opera form is laughed at to-day as an absurdity by Wagnerians, who see nothing absurd in a many-legged monster with a donkey’s head uttering deep bass curses through a speaking-trumpet; and perhaps to-morrow the Wagnerian music-drama and the many-legged monsters will be laughed at by the apostles of a new and equally absurd convention.  It is absolutely the first condition of the existence of an art that one shall be prepared to tolerate things ludicrously unlike anything to be found in real life; and when (for instance) you have swallowed the camel of allowing the heroes and heroines to sing their woes at all, it is a little foolish to strain at the gnat of permitting them to sing in this rather than in that way, when both ways are alike preposterous.  It is not, therefore, on the score of its inherent absurdity that I should throw brickbats at Italian opera, any more than with the female dress of to-day before my eyes I should insist that the women who wore the fashions of ten years ago were only fit to be incarcerated in a lunatic asylum; knowing, as I do, that the dress of ten years ago was not—­and could not be—­more absurd than the dress of to-day.  The only reasonable objection that can be brought against Italian opera is that when it is sincere it offers what no one wants, and that when it tries to offer what everyone wants it is not sincere.  I cannot quite understand what this means, but will endeavour to explain.

Project Gutenberg
Old Scores and New Readings from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook